On Sunday night, they righted their wrongs.
Following their ugly loss on Sunday, however, the Celtics made it a point to swarm the glass—a point of emphasis that was lost over the past few games.
“You try, especially in the first 25 games, to get great at a bunch of things, and you emphasize them,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “And so, as you go through the season, [you say] this is important for this stretch of games. This is important. What can you hang on to throughout the entire year?
“And so, I thought maybe, as a staff, we didn’t emphasize them enough. And so today, that was one of the big keys for us was, ‘can we get back to our corner crashing?’ And our guys did a great job of executing.”
Boston grabbed a season-high 18 offensive rebounds against the Hawks, contributing to a season-high 58 rebounds overall and leading to a 113-103 victory.
Al Horford led the way with 15 boards, but right behind him was two-way player Neemias Queta, who made his second appearance of his Celtics career on Sunday night.
Queta played 15:09 off the bench for Boston, but in his limited minutes, he made sure to make a big-time impact.
“I thought Queta just did a good job in his rim protection and on the offensive end, just kind of making the game nasty,” Mazzulla said.
The Portuguese big man finished the game with seven points and 10 rebounds, including six offensive boards. Some of those came as a result of his own misses, as he shot just 3-for-8, but his hustle shined through on every possession.
“That’s a little bit of what I bring to the table,” Queta said after the win over Atlanta. “Being an offensive rebounder. Being able to crash or attract a second defender on the offensive glass. I feel like it’s just one of those things I can help with. With all of these guys, we all emphasize crashing, so it’s coming along really well for us. We got to keep going.”
As the Celtics looked to improve upon their areas of struggle in the Magic game, Queta provided a nice boost. His night was highlighted by two plays: An and-one he earned after an offensive rebound and another hustle board, after which he threw the ball off of Onyeka Okongwu’s foot to keep possession.
“He was a big for us tonight,” Jayson Tatum said. “Like you said, just the energy that he brought off the bench. I give a lot of credit to those guys in the stay-ready group. They work their butts off, and it’s tough not knowing when your number is going to get called but just having to be prepared when it does, and tonight, he helped us win the game.”
A nagging foot injury delayed Queta’s start to the season after an impressive run in training camp, during which Mazzulla noted he was earning more opportunities, but he seems to be back and ready to contribute after spending a stint with the Maine Celtics.
“I feel like going back to the G helped me get back into a rhythm,” Queta said. “Getting a couple of minutes, a couple of games under my belt. Pretty close games, too. I feel like it was the best decision for me to get back into shape and in a rhythm.”
Queta’s rebounding efforts played a huge part in the Celtics’ win, but he wasn’t the only one emphasizing that part of the game.
Horford snagged three offensive boards, and Dalano Banton, Derrick White, and Sam Hauser all grabbed two. Outside of Payton Pritchard, every player who stepped foot on the court for the Celtics on Sunday had at least one offensive rebound.
Boston was crashing from both corners on nearly every possession, and they managed to do a complete 180 after their worst loss of the season on Friday afternoon.
Over the course of an 82-game season, mindsets will slip. Teams will go through rough patches and fail to execute on gameplans that had been previously set. What’s important is responding quickly. And after a rough week on the glass, that’s exactly what the Celtics did.